British Columbia

Stay-at-home order for Cowichan Tribes lifted after 2 months

Members of Cowichan Tribes near Duncan on Vancouver Island are breathing a sigh of relief after a two-month-long lockdown ended on Friday, but with six COVID deaths, community leaders say vigilance is still needed.

But leaders urge members to continue to be vigilant against COVID-19

There have been 269 COVID-19 cases in Cowichan Tribes since Dec. 31, of which 259 have recovered, 6 died, 3 are in isolation and 1 is in hospital. (Facebook/Cowichan Tribes)

Members of Cowichan Tribes near Duncan on Vancouver Island are breathing a sigh of relief after a two-month-long lockdown ended on Friday, but with six COVID-19 related deaths, community leaders say vigilance is still needed.

"We've had a long year," said Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour.

There have been 269 COVID-19 cases in the First Nation since Dec. 31, of which 259 have recovered, six died, three are in isolation and one is in hospital.

With skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in January, Seymour had no choice but to order his community, the largest First Nations band in British Columbia, to shelter in place. Now, more than two months later, hundreds have been vaccinated and the restrictions have finally been lifted.

Seymour says they're not out of the woods yet.

"We're still going to keep those checkpoints just to remind everybody that we're not out of it yet," he said.

Strong resolve

With the shelter-in-place order lifted, members can now have outdoor visits with 10 people, but they must be the same 10 people.

People can also go eat in restaurants with members of their household and they may also get haircuts.

Indoor gatherings are still prohibited. 

Despite the challenges Seymour says there is strong resolve among members to limit any further spread of the virus. 

"Everybody is trying to follow the health directives because of our fear of decimation," said Seymour, referencing the smallpox epidemic that ravaged the First Nation more than 100 years ago.

Medical staff wait to administer 600 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the drive-through Cowichan Tribes Vaccine clinic. (Lauren Noel)

Vaccinations for off-reserve members needed

Stephanie Atleo is a councillor for Cowichan Tribes. She helped organize the vaccine efforts and she says one of the biggest challenges is that off-reserve members remain unvaccinated.

"Your sister's house is just an extension of your own house, so we really need off-reserve members and family households to come get vaccinated so everyone is protected," she said.

Atleo says they've been told all members living off reserve will be eligible to get their shots next month. She says until then, everyone should follow provincial health guidelines.

With files from the Canadian Press

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